I’ve always been a bit intimidated by fast-action fly rods. I’m trout guy—a small-stream creek freak who is much more comfortable using a slower, more precise tool to make shorter casts into tigheter spaces. To me, fast fly rods translated into weapons of random destruction, and to use them right, they required longer casts, double hauls and often some compensation for the wind that was likely blowing wherever something so stiff and unforgiving might be necessary.
And then I learned how to chase bonefish on the flats.
In some regards, all of the above is true. Fast-action fly rods do, indeed, require a bit more sophistication to cast effectively. To get the most out of them, they require more line to load than a shorter, more supple fly rod. But the pay-off is that 60- or 70-foot cast to the cruising bonefish with wind coming at your from creative angles. The accuracy? That’s up to you, frankly, and that’s a practice thing.
As we walked a skinny flat in the Ascension Bay backcountry earlier this winter, the tropical north wind that cursed the region for the better part of our week in the Yucatan was off my right shoulder and busy kicking up little ripples on the somewhat sheltered stretch of water. Conditions for a journeyman (at best) flats angler were less than ideal. In the distance, I caught the tell-tale flash of a tailing bone, and after focusing in, I could see a pair of nice fish working their way toward me, lazily zig-zagging across the sand in search of small shrimp and crabs.
It was a pretty routine shot, as bonefish opportunities go, and with a single backcast, I was able to stretch out just enough line to plop the nearly weightless Gotcha in the path of the tailing fish. As they got closer to where my fly rested on the bottom of the bay, I gave the fly a little twitch, and within a second, I was hooked up to a very respectable 3-pound bonefish.
“Let me see that rod,” said my guide for the day, a stout Mayan named Charlie, after we released the fish. I handed him the 7-weight.
“Sage BOLT,” he said. “That’s a nice rod.”
The BOLT is, indeed, a fast-action rod. And it’s a complimentary tool. By that, I mean, it’s an instrument that can help an angler with just enough innate ability do exactly what he or she intends to do. In this instance, despite a touch of wind from the worst possible angle, it helped enhance my limited skill as a flats angler and allowed me to put my fly where I wanted it. Like most rods, it’s not going to do the work for you—that comes with hours spent chasing fish on the flats or days spent at the park practicing the double haul with wind in your face.
You handle the basic skill, and the BOLT will do the rest. That’s a good thing, in my book. I’ve cast heavy (7- to 9-weight) rods that feel heavy and bulky and generally uncomfortable in my hands. The Bolt is the opposite. It felt comfortable, and, despite the wind and the general blustery weather we endured on the week-long trip to Mexico, I never felt like it lacked the backbone to do the job that needed to be done.
Billed as an “ultra-fast” rod from the manufacturer, the BOLT lives up to that promise. In more than one instance, it helped me pick up 60 feet of line and, with only one backcast, send line shooting across the flat to my intended target.
With that ultra-fast action comes sacrifice. The BOLT is not a precision tool meant for delicate presentations. On a couple of occasions, the rod’s speed worked against me, especially when I managed to be particularly accurate. On bonefish flats where the fish tail and cruise in less than a foot of water on occasion, it’s vital that casts be accurate and that they don’t plop down into the water with any fanfare. The BOLT is great for tight loops, long casts and quick recovery. But in the hands of a generalist fly fisher like me, it’s not going to drop a size 6 shrimp pattern two feet ahead of tailing bones without a bit of splash.
The Bolt is a handsome rod with its “salmonfly” blank and high-end hardware, and at $650, it’s priced in the ballpark with its competition. For salt, the rod is a great wind-cutter—even in the 7-weight model. It also was great for heavier flies and streamers that we used when casting to jacks and snappers, and I suspect the 7-weight would be a fantastic drift-boat rod for big Missouri River rainbows on a gusty fall day near Craig.
For slicing wind or heaving big flies, the Bolt is a worthy addition to any fly rodder’s quiver. Perhaps its best asset its weight. At just less than 4 ounces, it’s meant to be an “all-day” rod, something that won’t wear out an angler and make lifting that glass of rum at the end of the day real challenge.
I liked the BOLT, and I’d find plenty of opportunities to use it, but due to its ultra-fast action and lack of presentation finesse, it's not a do-it-all rod.
Learn more about the Sage Bolt (via Sage).